Analysis: After Stormy, Trump Goes Dark

Trump avoiding reporters for second day after porn actress broke silence

President Donald Trump has gone uncharacteristically silent after Stormy Daniels’ “60 Minutes’ interview on Sunday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump has gone uncharacteristically silent after Stormy Daniels’ “60 Minutes’ interview on Sunday. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Posted March 27, 2018 at 8:53am

President Donald Trump has gone dark.

On the first work day after porn actress Stormy Daniels alleged a consenual sexual encounter with then-married businessman and reality television star Trump in 2006 then a payoff to remain silent in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election, Trump stayed out of view of reporters Monday — and out of range of their myriad Stormy questions — on an uncharacteristically quiet day at his White House.

His public schedule for Tuesday also does not show any opportunities for reporters to ask him about allegations Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) made Sunday night on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that drew 22 million viewers. There are no events during working hours at the executive mansion at which the day’s press pool will be allowed in, situations the president almost always answers a few questions.

The president opted just Friday to answer a pool reporter’s question as he exited the Diplomatic Reception Room about whether he still wants to testify in the Justice Department’s Russia election meddling probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I would like to,” Trump responded, giving his senior aides and legal team heartburn.

The White House released a Tuesday schedule that does indicate a small group of reporters will be allowed into the room Tuesday evening when the president speaks at a Republican fundraiser in Washington. But those kinds of settings typically do not allow them to ask questions, just sample a bit of his message.

Aides on Monday refused to tell a reporter what the president was up to the day after Daniels spoke on national television about allegedly spanking Trump with a magazine with his picture on the cover after daring him to drop his pants. She says Trump did so, leaving on his underpants while she swatted his backside.

“I don’t have anything for you on that,” an aide said with a wry smile late Monday afternoon. The White House dismissed the day’s press pool at 4:39 p.m., meaning they would not be needed to provide dispatches from any events at which Trump would be speaking — and possibly facing questions about Daniels’ allegations that his attorney, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep her story quiet and that an unmanned Trump associate threatened her.

The silence over Daniels is unlike Trump, who relishes his persona as a “streetfighter,” as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon once branded the president.

Just last week the president used one of his Thursday morning tweets to blast back at former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., who had said the previous day the president’s past comments about and alleged actions toward women made him want to “beat the hell out of” Trump if they were in high school.

Trump was quick to accepted the apparent challenge, tweeting that the longtime senator and 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner would “would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

He had to be talked — twice — into signing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that was required to avert his third government shutdown in just 15 months in office. Rather than going silent about his gripes with the legislation and pressing lawmakers about it in private, Trump sent shockwaves across Washington when he tweeted that he was “considering” vetoing the bill. (He later signed it after hours of high drama.)

He also made his feelings clear last week about Democrats’ handling of the quest to find a solution to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects 690,000 undocumented individuals from deportation. He said Democrats have “totally abandoned” them and are “using” the so-called “Dreamers” for their political goals.

The previous week, Trump lashed out at Canada — yes, Canada — over its trade practices and nudged conservative primary challenger Danny Tarkanian out of GOP Sen. Dean Heller’s re-election race.

But, on all things Stormy, Trump has chosen to go dark. On Sunday evening, as he returned the White House, reporters shouted questions about whether he would watch her “60 Minutes” appearance. The president did not respond.

The president appears to think the best way to handle Daniels’ allegations is to simply ignore them and allow his top spokespeople and personal attorneys to deny them. Perhaps that’s why the Daniels camp is trying to draw the president out of the dark, baiting him with a tweet that has been displayed and talked about on the one venue they know will reach him: cable news.

Michael Avenatti, Daniels’s lawyer, fired off a tweet Monday afternoon, noting her appearance on the Sunday news magazine show “CRUSHED (BY MILLIONS) any Apprentice show in the last ten years as well as Mr. Trump’s Nov 2016 appearance.” He trolled Trump, writing television ratings are “what really matters (LOL) to the president, ending the post with this hashtag: “#priorities”.

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